Thursday, 23 January 2014


My Never-Fail baby seat was brought into use again this morning when Mairi arrived with Harriet.  She is 7.5 months and has now graduated to being placed in the laundry basket in front of the washing machine.  I mean ... what's a washing machine for if not to keep a wee one occupied for 2 whole minutes?!

Mairi and Iain are sorting out the paper work for a replacement car for Iain.  It's "All Change" as his old one goes to Mairi.

There is a link here to a similar topic last September.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


When all systems are working life moves along smoothly.  When not, it is a patch up job.  And today was one of those!

After taking friends (Louise and Andrew) to the airport at a comfortable hour this morning I arrived back at the house and drove up the driveway to the garage.  When I reached for the remote control mechanism to activate the up-and-over door ... it was not there in the little dashboard tray where I keep it.  In the short term this was not a problem as we have 2 others in the house.

This is a Back-up mechanism with a green ribbon on it to make it easier to find should it end up in any of 101 places between the house and the inside of the car.

However, I wondered what I had done to mislay my Everyday one.  Then I remembered that I got out of the car at the airport drop-off zone to open the boot/trunk of the car.  I must have replaced it in my lap upon leaving the house and then dropped it on the ground when I got out of the car.

And, indeed, that is what happened.

In situations like this I always operate on the Chappaquiddick Principle, namely, if you've got bad news, get it out in the fullest possible detail and as early as possible.  In this case: go back immediately (1/2 hour drive) and look where you think you dropped it.

It was right where I had stopped but had been run over as the "After" photo above shows.  Now I keep a Jingle Bell type bell on the cord attached but ... the system failed here ... I did not hear it drop.  

When I got home again I stopped in the driveway and thought "I wonder if it still works?"  It did!  And I think the whole mechanism was saved from being totally smashed because I had wrapped yellow and green electrical tape around it.  It is my "system" for seeing things in poorly lit places.

So now I need to find a tame electronic wizard to gently tape it back together so it can function as, at least, a replacement Back-up. 


*  The Chappaquiddick incident occurred on July 18, 1969, in which Mary Jo Kopechne, a female passenger of U.S. Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, was killed when he accidentally drove his car off a bridge and into a tidal channel on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts. Kennedy swam free and left the scene, not reporting the accident within nine hours, but Kopechne died in the vehicle.  [Wikipedia]

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


This post goes with the previous one as it is about a milestone reached in the number of posts done since I started in May 2007 (6 years ago).

I wanted to do as As At position regarding the family so here are the grandchildren ... the rest of us shall be "background" for purposes of this exercise.

Here is Indy, aged 2.5 years who lives in Vancouver.  He is coming along a treat!  We speak every week to him on Skype where we get to see him larking about and chattering.  He continues to maintain good health and for that we are all so very grateful!

Next is Harriet, aged 7.5 months. I took this photo today.  She's on the kitchen floor as I make a Shepherd's Pie for dinner.  She's rolling over and trying to get her legs up under her so she can start crawling.  She's as bright as a button and if she wants something she hollers - no whimpering for this one!

So where are Alastair (aged 6 years old in 2 weeks' time) and Ishie (just turned 7 years old on New Year's Eve)?  Here they are last Sunday when they were all over for Sunday dinner.  They are lining up the ornaments on the living room window ledge while we talked in front of the fire.  

They are both doing very well at school and keep the rest of us on our toes with all their hi-jinks!  

For example, 

Grandma: "Where are the wooden owls from the window ledge?"  Cheeky Monkeys: "Mr Nobody must have hidden them..." 

I'm here to tell you Mr Nobody spends a lot of time in our house!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


To mark the fact that the blog-o-meter is about to trip "1000" (i.e. this is the 1000th post) I decided to do an "As At Position" today.  For starters: what's the weather like; what am I doing?  Maybe tomorrow I will get some As At family photos. (The problem is I have some but not a full range at the moment.)  Later:  see 1000th POST 2: THE GRANDCHILDREN

Hey ho... it's cold out. The front window (UK = windscreen / N America = windshield) of Iain's car which sits in the front of the house illustrates the Scottish climate exactly.  The photo shows where I drew 2 eyes, a nose and a mouth.  The eyes are in frost which has reached just above freezing and the nose and mouth are still frozen.  That describes the road surfaces, conditions when you are walking outside or out in the mountains: one bit is water and the next is ice.  Treacherous!

The good news is that we live in a maritime climate and so we have the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream here.  It has been wet, windy, stormy but basically a mild winter so far.  Also the days are starting to get longer.  It is starting to get light at 8 am and is fully light at 9 am.

 The bulbs are starting to peek through under the leaves.  The best sight in the whole growing year!

The parsley is thriving; frosty white in places but still giving green in the garden (helped also by the hardy, healthy rosemary and sage)!

I think this is wintergreen.  The man in the garden nursery recommended this plant and the dozen I planted in a row continue to give colour all through this winter period.

However back indoors .... what's doing?  The CCC Sailing Directions for the North, North-east, Orkney and Shetland.

Iain and I are updating this book for people who sail the waters of Scotland.  So my head is presently in the Pentland Firth.  The photo above is of Cantickhead Lighthouse where we stayed in 2012.  It overlooks the Pentland Firth (the body of water on the north coast of Scotland between the mainland and Orkney Islands). I am going through the text and also assembling photographs to illustrate the harbours, marinas, beacons, hazards etc.  Some are my own taken 2 years ago; others come from various sources including aerial photographs. Iain is checking the charts and re-writing sections.

Today a question occurred to me: can one take photographs from the Google Earth images? I had a long chat about this with another CCC member and have now learned that this, indeed, is possible.  I am so impressed with this technology! Also there are other similar sites to Google Earth which I am learning about.  I had a go at zooming in to a location on Hoy (Orkney) called Lyness then taking a photograph of it taken using my iPad. (It creates a jpg file in the camera roll.) Amazing!  The resulting image is crisp and sharp and can be of a suitable size at high resolution.  However, there are lots of outstanding questions: copyright conditions, how up-to-date are the images etc.
What is it the kids say nowadays??? .... AWESOME!

Monday, 13 January 2014


Every new year I recall my father's annual ritual: sharpen the pencils and change the calendars.

Now I am a real fuss-budget about pencils; I only use Canadian Ticonderoga made by Dixon brand.  I buy them in Salmon Arm and do not lend or give away.  I love them! And I like them sharp - always.  I bought this pencil sharpener years ago in USA when we lived there.  My father had one the same screwed to the left hand side of his oak roll top desk where he sat every night going through his Day Book, i.e. the one that fit into his left-hand shirt pocket for making notes.

This is a new calendar from John and it is on the wall to the left of my desk.  I love it! I has 12 of his own photographs - one for each month so this is January to start things off.

Speaking of calendars it reminded me of the Scottish artist Jack Vettriano and the exhibition which is on in Glasgow these days.  I went in the autumn and this is my ticket above: £3.00!  Well done, Glasgow City Council's Kelvingrove Art Gallery!

Now this is an artist that is the subject of much conflicting opinion.  That is one of the main reasons I went along ... just so I could see for myself. The situation is that his paintings sell for megabucks and also he is very popular with "ordinary people". Set against this is the really strong and angry opposing position by art critics and those who tell us what Art IS and IS NOT. 

The following quote from The Guardian critic, October 5, 2005, talking about his most well-known one, gives a flavour:

  The Singing Butler

"The Singing Butler has been criticised for its uneven finishing, inconsistent lighting and treatment of wind, and for the odd position of the dancers (the dancers' pose is reversed from a normal closed dance hold: usually, with the main leading, the man's left hand would hold the woman's right hand, and he would place his right hand on the woman's waist while she holds his shoulder with her left hand; if the woman were leading, her right arm would be around the man's waist)."

Be that as it may .... the original painting was sold at auction in August 2003 for £90,000 and then sold to a private collector in April 2004 for £744,500, a Scottish record at that time.

I had a look at all of the paintings; there were a lot of them brought together for the occasion.  His paintings are very much in evidence on shortbread boxes, calendars, tea towels, postcards, posters and the like and for that reason I was perhaps biased in thinking that they mainly looked like calendar girls (as many are of women with men lurking close by). 

That brings me back to my father's calendars.  The one above is a 1950s calendar and absolutely typical of what every garage had hanging on the wall and his workshop was no exception.  To this day I never stand in a mechanic's garage (waiting for the car to roll of the hoist) without scanning the walls for a girlie calendar!

Bluebird At Bonneville

Yes, I did like one of Vettrino's paintings and it is this one above of a go-fast car of Malcolm Campbell on the Utah flats (I think) and commissioned by Terrance Conran for his Bluebird Club in London.   Apparently it sold at Sotheby's in excess of £600,000 to an unidentified buyer. 

As somebody in the media observed awhile back public galleries had better get moving if they want one because soon they won't be able to afford them! (The point being that galleries steadfastly do not hang his work.)

Last but not least:  here is a really neat calendar on this website here. (It falls into the category of industrial design.)

Images from Wikipedia

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


In our weekly Skype call to Alastair I was telling him how I have recently made a wonderful discovery in our local supermarket (Tesco's). 

Jello ... something I have not seen for over 40 years.  Now Jello is as common in USA and Canada as Heinz ketchup is here.

Yes, there has always been a coloured gelatin sold in the UK but it was sold in a gelatinous block divided  little cubes that you broke apart before adding it to the boiling water.

Food in the UK has to be labelled with all the ingredients and additives so here is the sticky label put on the box imported from Canada.  It shows that this cherry Jello contains allura red, among other things, which gives it that chemical red colour (and "May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children".)

I love the stuff and, apart from reminding me of birthday parties and Tupperware desserts with mini-marshmallows, I make a bowl of this to which I add a bag of (frozen) summer fruits (e.g. blackberries, black currents, cherries and strawberries).

However Alastair made me laugh when he asked me if remembered the time when we sailing one summer holiday when he was about 10 years old.  We were coming into the anchorage, Port Ramsay, on the north end of the island of Lismore which lies off the coast of Scotland. Iain knew there was a rock in the fairway so had the main sail down and was ghosting in slowly.  He stood on the bow looking for the rock which he knew did not show but definitely had to be avoided.  I was on the helm.  Mairi was down below in the cabin playing on the floor and Alastair was sitting at the table in the cabin gently stirring a bowl of jelly that he'd just made.


We hit the rock ...

Iain was bounced up (and down again) where he stood, I was thrown forward a bit in the cockpit where I was standing, Mairi was jolted from her position on the cabin floor where she was crouched on all fours and Alastair had the whole bowl of jelly thrown up into his face ... into his ears ... and what didn't land there flew on to the bulkhead partition behiind where he was sitting!

He got up and his wee face peered out of the companionway up shouting up to Iain "Dad!  I've been jellied!"

The reply came back:  "I'll deal with you in a minute, son ... we've got problems of our own!"

And to this day, at the end of every winter when the boat is closed up for the season, there is apt to be mould growing on one particular sugary patch on that bulkhead partition! 

Monday, 6 January 2014


I have not had a good day.

I was at the garage mid-morning to see about a small prang on the wing mirror of my car, a Volkswagan.  I clipped it on the garage door at the weekend.  Alan fixed it by popping the cover back on again and as I was driving off, Mairi drove in to leave her car with Alan.

I magnanimously offered to drove her back home after she collected Harriet from the Nursery.

Well, as I pulled into the car park at the Nursery I drove over the edge of the parking area and on to loose stones laid of soft earth.  I got well and truly stuck.  (Note to myself: add this to my Book of Bad Design, i.e. no raised edge, barrier or traffic cones at edge of parking area.)

Nothing for it but phone Iain to come and pull me out.  I even had a robust tow-rope in the boot (trunk).  He phoned to say he couldn't get his car to start - clutch trouble.

So I called the AA and, eventually, the nice man arrived and pulled me back on to the tarmac. So it was a bit of a wasted day for both Mairi and I except that while we waited Mairi sorted out a problem I had with not getting a ring tone or vibration on my iPhone.  I guess when the software was updated recently the default position was OFF and I never thought to check it out in Settings to take it off that position.

We headed home to Mairi's house where John was just in having collected the children from school.  He had a pot of tea and hot, buttered toast waiting.  Heaven!

Meanwhile here is a nice photo of the two of them as we sat in the foyer waiting for the AA man to arrive.

PS.  All's well that end's well: no damage done and no cost incurred.

Friday, 3 January 2014


As we are now in a new year it is time to take stock, i.e. what are some trends I have noticed on this blog?  One is that while I get a relatively small number of hits each day - family and friends, I assume - occasionally there is a massive surge!

One example of this is a book review I did of The Pillow Book by Sei Sh┼Źnagon here.   It received a 100 times more hits than any other post!  Why is that?  Dunno... except that probably people thought is was something related to Playboy magazine.  (It's not.)

What I notice today is that some book bloggers are talking about their New Year's Resolution to read a book for every year from 1900 to 1999.  See the blog references at the end.

I live with people who like to climb all the mountains in Scotland over 3000 feet (as listed originally by Sir Hugh Munro (1856–1919) and thus labelled "Munros").  These folk, of whom Iain is one, are called "Munro Baggers".   It's a great idea and folk have many happy years getting to know the country and the mountains as they tick them off the list.

Therefore I propose that the folk who wish to set themselves a challenge to, say, read x number of books (not necessarily in a given length of time) as above, be called "Book Baggers".

Before I leave this subject, that is our book "The Munros" (above) by our good friend Donald Bennet (died one year ago) on our book shelf. 

I am not a Munro Bagger; therefore to be a Book Bagger is just not my thing. However, here are some glimpses of what's on our shelves at the moment.

Given that we downsized 4 years ago we have somehow gathered an accumulation of books over the intervening period of time.  

I note that the book bloggers talk about sources for their books, e.g. e-books and something called p-books.  (I had to look that up; it means printed books.)

Anyhow, as Miss Jean Brodie said, "If you like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing you like."  In order to have a source of the places to get ideas for books, say, in the example above for each year 1900 - 1999,  I have made a list below.  

The blog person who came up with the idea is:

and is taken up by:

Sources for e-books:

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


We enjoyed having the neighbours in last night.  Iain played the pipes as they arrived - no show without punch!

Our hall table

Billy and his wife across the road brought some Christmas cake that he had made.

Today the weather is wet so it calls for cups of tea in front of the fire.   The garden is soaking but the bulbs inside are giving the very first glimmer of growth and even a bit of colour with this hyacinth.  The cyclamen plant is on its last legs but brighens up the sideboard. It matches the colour of the funky masquerade mask stuck above it on the wall.  The red funky bottle stopper came from Maggie; it's a cork with dancer's legs jiggling in the air.

I really enjoyed listening to the BBC radio coverage of the 2014 New Year's Day Concert from Vienna this morning.  I know it is on TV (Vienna Philharmonic with Daniel Barenboim conducting) and I will catch it later.  

Meanwhile I was reading that the "Vienna State Ballet dancers will be decked out in tartan kilts and plaid leg warmers for January's New Year's performance, thanks to custom costumes from Vivienne Westwood, best known for her punk-inspired designs." * That's the colours in the swatch inserted above.  To my eyes, this is a good example of how to use food colouring (e.g. tartrazine and allura red) in fashion!

* New York Daily